Fresh, lively, multi-ethnic. Antwerp, the Belgian gourmet city break
Only 30 minutes travel by train from Brussels Airport, Antwerp is the perfect city for a quick getaway. With its notable Dutch influences and all the traditional Belgian iconic bells and whistles, Antwerp is a beautiful, compact town, both historic and modernist: the perfect destination whether for a mid-week break or a weekend, especially if you are looking for a place where food, culture, history and architecture are perfectly mixed. The most northern city in Belgium – at one time the most important city north of the Alps – with it’s vast ports and docklands.
With a population of just over half a million, Antwerp is a compact and pretty walkable city but also boasts a well-connected, easy to use transport system of busses, trains, trams and subway. As this is a city break destination, within a short time you’ll quickly find your feet and understand how to get around. There are more than four hundred restaurants, bars and pubs in the city centre, many of which do not close before dawn. It will be easy to fall in love with Antwerp, as it is said to be the most lively and entertaining city in Belgium.
Antwerp people love eating and drinking and like to take the time to do so. During spring and summer, café terraces and culinary events attract hundreds of people. But it’s not just during the warm months that Antwerp reveals its tastiest side: fries and beer – both often praised as the best in the world – are an integral part of Belgian gastronomy at all times of year. The many local specialities are evidence of the city’s rich culinary tradition, foremost among them being Antwerpse Handjes, Bolleke beer and the liqueur Elixir d’Anvers. As you would expect from a world port, these regional treats are complemented by an extensive multicultural cuisine.
But as you’re reading an article about Antwerp, you immediately think about beer! Belgian beers are world-famous, and Antwerp is an excellent place to improve your acquaintance with them. The De Koninck Antwerp City Brewery offers an ideal introduction to the world of beer. The beers of De Koninck, including its famed “Bolleke” beer, have been brewed in Mechelsesteenweg for centuries. In 2015, the De Koninck city brewery opened an experience centre, inviting the public in for a look behind the scenes. The tour of the centre allows visitors to hear, see and taste the brewery’s story. In addition, the De Koninck site accommodates a culinary food court, where you can taste chocolate, cheese, meats and bread and where you can enjoy a meal at a restaurant.
Het Pakhuis and Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie are other breweries where you can taste authentically brewed beer. You can really make an immersive experience in the world of Belgian beers! In addition, there are plenty of typical ‘brown cafés’ which often have dozens and in some cases hundreds of Belgian beers on the menu. Examples include Bier Central, ’t Waagstuk, Paters Vaetje, de Kulminator and Gollem.
One beer that deserves special mention is Seefbier. This is a 19th century Antwerp beer that was sold until the 1930s, but then disappeared. In 2012, it was relaunched by the Antwerpse Brouw Compagnie, and has proved a great success: the blond cloudy beer has again become very popular. Now Seefbier got a few brothers: Bootjesbier, Cadix and Paterke.
After having tasted the Belgian beers, you just have to visit the city, discovering its architectural style made of contrasts between old and new, walking along its cobbled streets or along the docks, holding in hand the inevitable Belgian fries.
Most people associate fries with France (French fries) however the origins of fries can be traced back to Belgium. It is believed the name of “French Fries” was given by American soldiers during WWII because they were positioned in the French-speaking part of Belgium. Belgium introduced the fried potatoes in the late 17th century. Fries are an integral part of Belgium’s gastronomic heritage. Belgian fries are often called the world’s finest. Traditionally, they are sold in a paper cone or a cardboard tray with a large dollop of sauce on top. Vendors offer a very wide range of sauces and meat products. Antwerp also has a ‘fries stand museum’ on the Groenplaats above the famous Max fries shop.
There is so much to drink and taste in Antwerp that it is impossible to leave it hungry or thirsty.
Antwerp is fun and lively, romantic and innovative, you will have much to see and experience …just being there, it will be unforgettable!